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Context of 'Spring 2003: Bin Laden Allegedly Meets Group of Militants in Pakistan’s Tribal Region'

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Osama bin Laden allegedly attends a gathering of Islamist militants in Pakistan’s tribal region. In 2011, after bin Laden’s death, the New York Times will claim that an unnamed Pakistani militant leader alleges that he sees bin Laden in the spring of 2003. Accompanied by Arab and Chechen bodyguards, bin Laden arrives unexpectedly at a meeting of nearly 100 militants at a mountain village in North Waziristan. Apparently, bin Laden doesn’t make his presence known to the entire gathering. However, the militant leader meets him briefly inside a house, and he is sure it is bin Laden because he met him once, prior to the 9/11 attacks. This leader is an informant for the Pakistani military at this time, but he will not tell the Times if he passes this information on to his Pakistani handlers. He will also claim that from about 2002 to 2004, bin Laden moves from place to place in the tribal region. He speculates that after the US begins drone strikes in the tribal region in 2004, bin Laden moves to one of Pakistan’s towns outside of the tribal region where drone strikes don’t reach. [New York Times, 6/23/2011]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, New York Times

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Afghan intelligence allegedly concludes that Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan, but not in the tribal region. Shortly after bin Laden’s death (see May 2, 2011), Amrullah Saleh, who from 2004 to 2010 was head of the NDS (National Directorate of Security), Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, will claim that as early as 2004, and certainly by 2005, the NDS secretly concluded that Osama bin Laden was living somewhere in the heart of Pakistan instead of in the tribal region near the Afghan border where most people thought he was. Saleh claims this conclusion was based on “thousands of interrogation reports” and the assumption that bin Laden with his many wives would not stay in the mountainous wilderness for long. “I was pretty sure he was in the settled areas of Pakistan because in 2005 it was still very easy to infiltrate the tribal areas, and we had massive numbers of informants there. They could find any Arab but not bin Laden.” Saleh has not said if this conclusion was shared with the US and/or Pakistani governments at the time. [Guardian, 5/5/2011]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Amrullah Saleh, National Directorate of Security (Afghanistan)

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Osama bin Laden meets a prominent Pakistani militant leader in Pakistan’s tribal region, according to a Pakistani Interior Ministry report. An account of the report will be published in the Daily Times, a Pakistani newspaper, in 2010. Supposedly, bin Laden meets with Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the leader of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami. The two allegedly meet to discuss militant operations against Pakistan. This is the only known recorded instance prior to bin Laden’s death in 2011 (see May 2, 2011) that the Pakistani government has evidence bin Laden is hiding somewhere inside Pakistan. [New York Times, 6/23/2011] Akhtar has been an Islamist militant leader since the 1980s, and he had personal ties with bin Laden and Taliban head Mullah Omar that predate the 9/11 attacks. In 2008, media reports named him as a suspect in the Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad, Pakistan, that killed over 50. [Asia Times, 9/30/2004; Daily Telegraph, 9/22/2008] In hindsight, it will appear bin Laden lives in Abbottabad, Pakistan, at this time, outside the tribal region (see May 2, 2011). It will be unknown if he occasionally leaves his hideout to make journeys for meetings such as this.

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Harkat ul-Jihad al-Islami, Qari Saifullah Akhtar

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

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